Wednesday 28 March 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 48

This week's picture prompt comes from Hossein Zare, an Iranian artist. He has some wonderful work, check out the gallery on his website here.

This turned out gentler than planned. I wanted to give it a twist at the end, but it came out how it came out, as they often do. I look forward to seeing how others interpret this weeks.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

Not a Mirage

“Not much further now. Look you can see it up ahead.”

“Are you sure that’s real and not another mirage?”

“It has to be, look how the light sun is highlighting it.”

Gabriel paused to catch her breath and look at their destination – a tree. It could be the only tree on earth. They’d been travelling for years and not seen one yet. It looked too real with its rich green foliage standing out against the scorched earth it stood in; it seemed surreal.

But then the whole of the earth was scorched now, the only life that could be sustained was in the crowded, dirty cities, using recycled ocean water. The seas might still exist but nothing lived in them now – nothing lived anywhere anymore, except humans in their cities. Mankind had made sure of that – or at least the ones that controlled the bombs. A hundred years had passed and the land had grown hot, arid and barren. The only plants that grew were in underground glasshouses and were only for those that could afford them, the rest of the population had to make do with supplements; it was the second largest thing to cull the population after the bombs, and the one that kept it to a minimum.

Gabriel and Peter hadn’t wanted to stay in the cities. They were dangerous and toxic. They didn’t believe the stories that there was nothing out here; they wanted to find out for themselves. So they had. They had travelled across landmass after landmass, witnessing the desertification, the monotony broken only by isolated, congested cities where the people crowded in, trying to survive.

Up until now the only sightings of any other living thing between the cities had been water starved illusions. Gabriel was surprised they were still alive.

And here ahead of them was a tree – or potential tree. She had only seen them on computers and in old films. She wondered what it would smell and feel like.

“Oh I hope it is real, Peter.”

“Let’s find out, Gabby.”

He took her hand and led her down the rocky hillside onto the plain. The tree loomed larger as they drew closer. It didn’t wobble or shimmer, it remained steady. Gabby felt the same urgency as Peter as he tugged at her hand, upping their pace, breaking into a jog as they approached. They stopped a foot away, silently observing. They could hear the whoosh of the wind blowing through its leaves and smell the slightly acrid smell of its foliage. Peter stepped forward and tentatively put out a hand to its trunk. His fingers brushed its surface and he moved closer pressing both hands against it.

“It IS real!” he laughed. “It is! It is!”

Gabby rushed forward to join him, flinging her arms around the tree’s wide girth and embracing it. She felt the rough texture of the bark under her cheek and inhaled the woody smell, so alien yet so familiar. 

Peter stepped back a couple of feet and started digging in the ground.

“What are you doing?”

“If it can survive here, then so can we. There must be a water source.”

After he dug down a foot or more the earth started to get damp.

“See? I told you.”

Gabby joined him and after a while they had a puddle of water in the bottom of a hole. It smelt of sand and soil but when they licked it, it was sweet. Gabby cupped a handful, it was a little gritty but it quenched her thirst. She took another and found that the hole never quite emptied.

Once they had both had their fill, they settled down against the base of the tree.

“What shall we do now, Peter?”

“Set up camp, Gabby, this is our home now, and our tree.”

She smiled. They had done it. They had found life outside the cities; a fresh start, a new beginning.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Round vs Around

I came across the whole 'round versus around' debate while editing a manuscript for an American indie author. Being British, I use them both, and consider them words with different meanings, appropriate at different times, but my American friend felt that 'around' was predominantly used in all cases, unless referring to something actually circular. Hence my research began.

A divide has clearly occurred (yet again) between the American and British usage of this word. The Brits do indeed see them as two different words, with different meanings, and interchangeable, whereas the average American doesn't; they rely heavily on around, only using round when talking about an actual circle.

So let's look at a few facts:

The word round works virtually anywhere around would work, but the opposite is not the case. There are several definitions round doesn’t share with around

For example: 

The edge of a circle is not around.
Someone would not play an around of golf
You wouldn't have big around eyes.
'Around and around the Mulburry bush' doesn't work the same. 
And just today I told my son to move his legs round under the table - meaning to turn them from the side, where he had them, under the table. If I said, move your legs around, he would have waggled them at me!😉

The word round has five grammatical functions: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition, whereas the word around has just two: adverb and preposition.
In the British English section of Oxford Dictionaries, there’s a general preference among British speakers to use round for “definite, specific movement,” and around in contexts that are less definite. 

For example:

The sun moves round the earth.
He turned round.
A car came round the corner.
They wandered around for ages.
A second hand car cost around £3,000.
According to a rumor circulating around the boardroom, he’s retiring.

There is no denying they can be ambiguous, because they can be used to define different things, as well as be interchangeable. It is not clearly defined in all instances, thus it is a choice for the writer - especially for an indie author who is not tied to publishing house rules.

But then I came across an apostrophe in front of the word round: - 'round. 

Now this is tricky because, if it is a contracted version of around, it's not officially incorrect - because they can be used to define different things. But as round can work in nearly all the same places around can, it's confusing. 

The use of such an abbreviation in dialogue, to denote dialect, might  be considered acceptable, but outside of that would be questionable.  

I would never write: 'I walked 'round the tower' in a text narrative. But I might write: "We've bin walkin' 'round ages" in dialogue. (Although I personally am more likely to write: 'We've been walkin' ar'and 'ere for ages' - but that's a choice for the author.)

So there you have it, not as straightforward as it might appear. You might have to work around it, or round it, depending on your preference.😁

Find more editing tip posts HERE.

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 47

This week's picture prompt is from Polish artist Tomasz Alen Kopera. He has a way of creating that is magical. He has some wonderful pieces  so many I could write for. Check out his gallery on his website.

It took a while for this story to surface, I stopped and started (and procrastinated) quite a bit. I wanted to capture their intensity and their desire. I think I managed to do that, and also give it a dark edge at the end. I like it, I hope you do too.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

The Lovers

She longed eternally to bring up her arm and touch his face, but she could no longer move. She could only stare into his eyes as he did into hers and remember their love forever.

They heard the movement around them, time passed in a strange disconnected way, seasons and life growing around them. One minute buried in green, another surrounded by city. It was all a blur in their peripheral vision. Like the rest of their bodies, their sight was fixed on each other and could go nowhere else.

Then one day there were ribbons and pieces of paper floating down and draping over them. They heard song and dance surrounding them, hands on them. A fluttering began at their backs and they felt for the first time in millennia air touching their bodies. Cracks ran up her partners face and over his head, and she felt the same on hers. She attempted again to raise her hand and this time there was movement: a breaking, a cracking as it began to bend.

She wriggled her fingers getting ready as the last crumbs of stone fell from his soft dark skin, and brought her arm up. The delicate sensation under her fingertips of the smooth warm surface caused her to gasp, as did the feel of his hands on her hips as he could finally begin to embrace her again.

She ran a finger over his lips as their bodies began to lean in, the stone crumbling & falling away from their bodies in clouds of dust, leaving traces of their movement in the air. She stared only at his lips as they moved closer, anticipating the touch which was far more tangible than she had imagined all these centuries. Its softness flowed through her and her body responded by collapsing against his, moulding with it, her desire reaching its peak as they were once again lovers.

The crowds had fallen silent around them, in awe and wonder at this marvel of life returning to what they believed were statues all these years, unaware of the magic it was bringing forth and letting loose. As the lovers turned towards the people, cheers went up and the festival began again in earnest. Swathes of the ash from the Lover’s bodies rose up and filled the air the people breathed. One by one they became as rigid as the lovers had been; some caught in the act of dancing, some in kissing, and some attempting to run away as they witnessed what was happening.

It was their turn now to stand for centuries, locked in desire, in joy, and in perpetuity. The Lovers were back and would have their revenge. 

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 46

This weeks picture prompt was created by Ukrainian artist Mikhail Batrak. He has some incredible art, check out his website here.

I tried to come up with something original and encompass as many of the elements of this picture as possible. I ended up using a character from one of my novel's and a sort of 'alternate ending' to her story. It helps to explore the character and put her somewhere different and see what she would do and think.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

Ocean Dreaming

Lizzy stood contemplating the ocean. She had done this many times over the years, at different stages in her life. When she was a child it was with awe at the waves and their white horses and how they would shrink down to ripples at her toes. As a teenager it was with jealousy at the waves as they lifted up and crashed, releasing their rage, spraying it everywhere, laying it bare. And now as an adult Lizzy watched the ebb and flow of the tide, wondering where it would go to, and what far and distant shore it swelled on.

With each aging process it brought with it a certainty: it was always there, always doing the same thing, steady and constant, its movement a comfort. So unlike her life which seemed to grow in its turbulence, inside and out.

Lizzy would spend hours picking apart the view, rearranging it in her mind as though trying to find a way to paint it that would express how she felt. It differed every day, from the clouds and the sky, the shells and the pebbles, to the colour of the water and the position of the sun. And sometimes she would try and paint it but it never looked the same or felt quite right – much like herself.

She could blame all the factors in her life: the failed pregnancies, the failed marriage, the affair her husband was having that he thought she knew nothing about. All of them a part of her decline into depths so black she despaired of ever finding a way out. But the truth was she had lost her way, and then her will. And even though there had been a sudden spark of life for a short time, it had been built around frustration and anger, which burned out as suddenly as it started, leaving her empty.  

And so here she was, looking out at the waves, feeling spent, contemplating her future. Lizzy didn’t have the energy to face it. It would only be a matter of days before people would discover what her rage had wrought. There was no way she’d be able to talk her way out of it. It didn’t matter that they were the ones in the wrong: fucking in the middle of the day, in her bed, in her house, for everyone to hear. She could still hear his grunting and her moans as she had climbed the stairs with the knife in her hand. There was no turning back from what she had done and how she had left them.

So here she stood in the rising dawn still wearing the blood spattered clothes – because there’d been no point trying to hide them – looking at the waves and wondering what they would feel like on her skin. How they would wash over her and cleanse her body, the cold refreshing her and flushing out the dark weight she had been carrying. How it would feel to breathe in the spray and eventually the water and be engulfed from head to toe, submerged without redemption, released from the horrors of her life.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 45

This weeks prompt photo was taken by Dennis Gerbeckx and was taken in Beelitz Heilstätten, an abandoned sanatorium South West of Berlin, in Germany. Dennis has captured many pictures of this place and has them in a gallery on Flicker. 

I thought it was time for something darker. And, for me, the trick of the darkness is leaving the details to the readers imagination.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

Self Persecution

It didn’t look any different to me. There might be mould on the floor, the material on the surgical bed might have gone slimy, the entire room might be in the final throws of decay, but it felt the same. I could feel the anger and fear rise as I stood there, the only sensation I associated with this room and that bed.

I walked round, feeling the remains of the room crunch underfoot, and looked at the overhead light. The bulbs were gone, but not the memory of how it would shine into my eyes as I lay there strapped up, unable to move, my head locked in. Some days even my eyelids were propped open, the glare never leaving me, for days the imprint across my vision making it hard to see anything – not that there was much to see in the hole they left me in, between times.

I stumbled forward, tripping over ceiling tiles as I fought to keep a hold of my emotions, but my stomach was churning. If I had eaten anything it might have decided to return, but I hadn’t been foolish enough to do that. I knew that coming here would be hard, especially on my sensitive digestive system, damaged after years of abuse; the experimental drugs they would try out on me, the biopsies of tissues for their studies, and the lack of nutrition through the years I had been kept here.

My mind screamed at me, ‘What are you doing here?!’ but I refused to flee, not this time. Not anymore. Although this time if I chose to flee I wouldn’t be hunted down and recaptured and punished further. I would be free to run and run and run. I could feel the adrenaline ramping up in my body, my legs itching to take me. But I stayed where I was. I had to do this; I had to kill the ghost that haunted me.

Twenty years on I was still lucky if I managed to have a full night’s sleep without the dreams, the nightmares, the terrors that would have me wake up screaming and running out of the house. It was only once I hit the stream at the bottom of the garden that I would wake to find that it wasn’t my reality anymore, that it was over.

I had been told the place had been shut down, that they had closed it up and it had been left to rot. A part of me just wouldn’t believe it, I had to see it for myself. I had to walk the halls again (what was left of them), and know in my bones that it was over, that it was finished, that the torture of the children that had been here was over.

I had attended all the court hearings the year before. Faced my tormentors, looked them in the eye and let them know they hadn’t broken me like they had broken so many others. And knowing they would never see the light of day again had served to quell some of my fears: I knew that they would never be able to do to another what they did to me. I knew that no one would resurrect the so called ‘research’ they claimed to be doing. The case had been so notorious the public had turned up when they had cleared the contents of the offices; they had burned everything, creating a massive bonfire on the lawn. All the newspapers had covered it. Twenty years on you could still see the scold mark on the ground.

But being here, in the rooms that were my torture chambers, I was able to see in person that they were empty and decaying, never to be used again. The demolition notices were plastered all over the front. Soon it would only be rubble. This was my last chance to try and find some peace, some kind of reconciliation in my mind about the horrors of my youth here. Standing here I realised that it couldn’t be found in a rotting old surgical bed, that it could only be found in my soul. I had to release it and attempt to forgive myself for letting it happen in the first place, & continuing the persecution in my mind.